Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg topped the timing sheets for Mercedes in the first and second free practice sessions for the Abu Dhabi grand prix.
The first of the one-and-a-half hour sessions started under bright sunlight and was topped by the number 44 Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. The reigning champion set a quickest time of 1:43:754 which was roughly one-and-a-half tenths quicker than teammate Nico Rosberg. The Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen followed in third albeit a further six tenths back. Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat was fourth fastest ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari.
Jolyon Palmer, who has secured a race seat for 2016, was out for the Lotus team but experienced a water leak and missed most of the session. Alexander Rossi has vacated the Manor Marussia seat to focus on the GP2 finale. Roberto Merhi has rejoined the team for the final race weekend of the season. In the inter-team battle at McLaren Jenson Button edged teammate Fernando Alonso for 13th place on the timing sheets.
As the sun set over the Yas Marina circuit the second free practice session got underway with considerably more running by the teams. This session is more representative of conditions that will be experienced in qualifying and the race, hence the increased work rate for the drivers.
Ultimately, Nico Rosberg’s 1:41:983 was the quickest time of the session on the red-walled supersoft tyre. It left the German a tenth-and-a-half clear of teammate Lewis Hamilton. Force India’s Sergio Perez finished the session in a surprising third place but did so twenty minutes early thanks to a brake issue.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was fourth quickest ahead of Sebastian Vettel (5th), Daniil Kvyat (6th) and Kimi Raikkonen (7th). The second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, and the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado rounded out the top ten.
In the long runs the pace comparison between Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg was especially noteworthy. Although there is no indication of fuel or engine modes run during the session the pace difference between the two drivers was, on average, a tenth of a second. A further interesting point was that Raikkonen was able to maintain a consistent pace for longer on the supersoft tyre than any other driver.
While Ferrari appear to have a competitive, perhaps even equal, race pace to Mercedes its qualifying pace still adrift of the Silver Arrows.